NEW YORK – In any war, there is always someone who becomes the first to die. In the case of the Civil War, we know who that person was: Luther C. Ladd, a 17-year-old Union soldier from Lowell, Massachusetts, a member of Company D in the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers.
But he didn’t perish on a grassy field in the rural South. Ladd and four others lost their lives on April 19, 1861 in Baltimore, when a mob attacked them as they were traversing the 10 blocks between the train station where they had disembarked to the train station where they would continue their journey south. The incident, known variously as the Baltimore Riot of 1861, the Pratt Street Riots, and the Pratt Street Massacre, occurred one week after the Civil War started.
The date was inadvertently charged with meaning, as it was the 86th anniversary of the battles in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts that started the American Revolutionary War. And the hometown of Ladd and Addison Whitney, who died alongside him, carried extra significance in the context of the Civil War. Lowell was America’s first industrial city, full of textile mills. After the cotton was grown in the south and harvested by enslaved people, it went to Lowell, where young, unmarried women known as mill girls transformed it into cloth.
Weeks or perhaps days before he died, Ladd donned his uniform and sat for an ambrotype photograph. The only known example of its kind, it will appear in the Printed & Manuscript Americana sale taking place at Swann Auction Galleries on Thursday, September 28, with an estimate of $8,000-$12,000.
A second lot in the sale, estimated at $800-$1,200, relates to the aftermath of the Baltimore riot. Lot 111 features a funeral program for the May 6, 1861 services for Ladd and Whitney, held at Lowell’s Huntington Hall, the very building from which their company departed. Also included are two cartes-de-visite of the obelisk-topped memorial under which the soldiers’ remains were reburied in 1865. Known as the Ladd and Whitney monument, it still stands on a triangular strip of land mere feet from Lowell City Hall and Lowell High School, looking exactly as it does in the period photos in the Swann sale.